Do you know who patented the first electric guitar? A guy named Adolph Rickenbacker.
As the story goes, a fellow named George Beauchamp, who was the general manager of the National Guitar Corporation, along with Paul Barth, the Vice President, actually designed the first electrically amplified guitar in 1931. Production started on these early models a year later, by the Ro-Pat-In Corporation. The company was jointly owned by Beauchamp, Barth, and Rickenbacker, and by 1934 they decided to change its name to the more distinctive Rickenbacker Electro Stringed Instrument Company.
Early-model Rickenbackers were nicknamed “frying pans” due to their long necks and circular bodies. A few thousand were produced in the thirties, making them the first solid bodied electric guitars ever sold. Now, watch the progression here: the Rickenbacker company, then known as Electro String for short, also sold amplifiers. One of their amp repairmen was Leo Fender. Once Mr. Fender went on to form his own guitar company, he had a salesman by the name of Francis C. Hall, who traveled around selling Fender guitar and amp sets. Mr. Hall saw big potential on the horizon for electric guitars, but not so much in being a salesman for Fender. Luckily for him, Mr. Rickenbacker and the other shareholders of “Electro String” decided to sell their shares to him and allow him to run with his vision, ushering in the modern era of the Rickenbacker guitar.
The 1950s saw a decline in the popularity of steels and an increased demand for regular electric guitars. Mr. Hall, the new company owner, was savvy about this and introduced two new models, the Combo 600 and 800 guitars. For the company’s 25th anniversary, he kept an eye on the future by introducing a student model, the Combo 400, with a distinctive “tulip” or “butterfly-style” body. In the early 1960’s, Rickenbacker guitars were favorites of both John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney, and consequently were coveted by other aspiring musicians, some of whom (such as Pete Townshend and John Fogerty) also became celebrities. Contemporary uses of Rickenbacker guitars include Tom Petty and members of Pearl Jam, Radiohead, and U2.
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